Friday, December 01, 2006
Spy murder mystery: The medical questions

Besides the Pope's trip to Turkey and President Bush's quick visit to meet with Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki, the dominant story of the week has been the poisoning of the former KGB agent in London. That mystery just keeps deepening.

As British security agents continue their investigation, we now know of others who were also contaminated by the exotic murder weapon -- the radioactive isotope polonium-210 -- including Alexander Litvinenko's wife.

We are preparing an hour-long special on this to air Monday at 10 p.m. We'll have reports from London, the United States, Italy and Russia. But the story that most intrigues me right now will come from our "360" MD, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Any good murder mystery -- and this is a good one -- spends much time examining suspects and motives. But in this story, perhaps the strange murder weapon itself could prove to be the most fascinating angle. And that's what Sanjay, with his tremendous medical expertise, will examine. Consider some of the questions he'll explore:

1. Why use polonium as murder weapon? Clearly, there are many ways to poison or kill someone, most far less risky and perhaps even more effective, so the mystery is, why use it? Is it 100 percent effective? Does the agonizing nature of the death send a message?

2. Polonium (that concentration, anyway) is extremely rare, so perhaps they figured toxicology and pathology reports would not screen for it, would not find it?

3. How in the world did the docs figure out what it was? What kind of medical and toxicological screening would you need to ferret out the polonium?

4. What is the risk to the assassin? Today's news reports indicate there is a good chance the assassin got it on him or herself. What is the assassin's risk factor?

Our teams are working through the weekend on this. So if you have thoughts or advice on these questions, please "blog" us. We'd love your help.

Posted By David Doss, "360" Executive Producer: 6:12 PM ET
The man who had lunch at the sushi restaurant has also tested positive for polonium and he didn't eat, he only had a glass of water.

What about all the people that were on the planes? Are they at risk also? How far does this reach? How far will contact spread polonium? Is close contact the only way to pass polonium?

This is the scariest story I've heard in a long time.
Posted By Anonymous Em, Toronto, Ontario, Canada : 6:55 PM ET
here's a question: this is a radioactive substance, so can one get contaminated by being in the presence of someone already contaminated with the radioactive substance?
Posted By Anonymous dhaval patel, johsnon city, ny : 7:03 PM ET
Someone got terribly sloppy with this, and I don't mean the authorities who are investigating the murder, either. I don't believe anyone was sending any messages by using this method of assassination, but I do believe someone was experimenting with a new substance and things went horribly wrong, even though the crime did manage to eliminate the intended target. By the time they find the culprit, it will probably be too late for him/her anyway. If the pollonium-210 doesn't kill the murderer, those who hired him/her probably will.
Posted By Anonymous Belinda Raye, Kokomo, IN : 7:11 PM ET

The possible implication of this unfortunate and final end to a man who held many secret's of the KGB and the Soviet Union is one of intrigue. I read the statement he gave from his deathbed, Why would he make such an astounding and final remark as he is about to meet his fate. He had a son, how terrible sad for his family.

Maritza Munoz San Jose, Ca
Posted By Anonymous Maritza Munoz San Jose Ca : 7:40 PM ET
You ask many intriguing questions to this horrible brutal murder. I would like to take a chance on answering some of these questions.

According to what I have found about polonium, it occurs naturally in pitchblende as a decay product of radium. Pitchblende is a variety of uraninite, a mineral that consists chiefly of uranium and oxygen. It has a tarlike lister and ranges in color from black to dark brown. Apparently there are major deposits of the ore in New Mexico, Wyoming, Austrailia, Canada, Russia, and South Africa. Possibly, the murderers were aware of the major pitchblende deposits in Russia, no one would even think of asking twice if someone wanted pitchblende maybe, and these people (if they worked for the Russian government) would have access to getting as much pitchblende as they would need without it being questioned.

If the murderers, instead, went to get arsenic or cyanide, it would be obvious to everyone that they would be out on a hit. Also, once the doctors gave tests to the KGB agent, they would have been able to treat him of the arsenic and/or cyanide. These people wanted the KGB agent dead. They needed a conduit that would deliver death with no chance of survival. They needed something bizarre, a chemical substance relegated to the footnotes of medical journals that could be overlooked, but powerful enough to send a message of terror/power to anyone who may be against possibly the Russian government or this KGB agent's personal enemies. This killing is as much psychological brutality as it is physical brutality. You cannot deny the psychology in this killing. The Russian governemnt, Putin, or an unknown powerful person wants these dissidents to be quiet, and stop their mutterings against their policies.

The docs who screened for polonium were really doing their job. I think that when doctors are witnessing a man who is wasting away quickly, right before their eyes, they really want to know what is going on internally to cause this. I believe that the docs felt is was incumbent upon them to find out what was wrong with him. Possibly, the doctors could have noticed bodily degeration that would be consistant with radio-active poisioning, like that of a nuclear bomb. Something either in his pattern of deterioration or in his lab work tipped off a doctor to test for uranium. Maybe even the docs ran out of options and just decided on a whim to test for uranium and radio-active poisoning because all the other tests failed to find something. This is something you all will have to use your well honed journalistic skills to discover.

According to what I have found on polonium, it decays into an isotope of lead by giving off alpha rays. I'm thinking that there had to be some sort of lead concentration in his body as well as the alpha rays. I am wondering if that is any correlation to radio-active poisoning in a nuclear bomb situation. Is it possible to test for polonium the same way one would test for uranium exposure?

I do not believe that the murderers were even calculating their own personal risk. The mission was to kill the KGB agent and not get caught. Well, if they acquired arsenic or cyanide, for example, that purchase or acquisiton could possibly be traced back to the people culpable of this crime. Using polonium 210, and having the KGB agent injest, the lethal element death is ensured. If the killers themselves are exposed to it, they could enter the hospital as "mere innocents" who were exposed to the substance. No one would even think twice of convicting them, they would just want to help rid them of this awful contamination. The perfect get away.

Well, those are my thoughts. I do not know if they will be of any help or not, but it is sure interesting to think about. I wish you all the best in getting to the bottom of this crime. I am sure you all will.

Summer Williams
Posted By Anonymous Summer Williams, Atlanta, Georgia : 7:41 PM ET
If it must be ingested to be truly poisonous (a claim they are making to quell the fears of passengers on the contaminated planes, etc), how did the spy's wife and friend also become contaminated?
Posted By Anonymous Amanda, Los Angeles, CA : 7:44 PM ET
If the stuff can't leak through paper then are the traces on the planes left by "extrusions" from people who are internally afected?

Can an "extrusion" from an affected peoson be picked up and deposited elsewhere, so that the second - and further - locations test positive?
Posted By Anonymous Mike, St. Croix VI : 7:53 PM ET
Hi David,
I will be very interested to see the show on Monday- we were just talking about this very subject today in my Global Studies class for current events. One of my students read an article that suggested this case may have a connection to organized crime in Russia. I wonder if that is why the assassin chose Polonium-to send the message that he/she has access to such a rare device? Who is the message being sent to, Russia or the whole world?
I look forward to the show Monday!
Posted By Anonymous Pamina, Pittsford, NY : 7:58 PM ET
David, the point that Andrew Sullivan raised on his blog stopped me in my tracks:

If Putin ordered the hit, it means we have a head-of-state prepared to use nuclear material to kill enemies, and spread it globally. If someone in the Russian nuclear network did it without Putin's permission, we have an even bigger problem on our hands. Here we were worried that Saddam could hand off nuclear material to rogue actors. And we didn't think of Putin.
Posted By Anonymous C Delmar, Portland OR : 8:21 PM ET
Hey David,
Good Lord this story is starting to make me feel creepy as I read the comments and realize this isn't a movie or a who-dun-it novel, this is for real!! All that struck me as really odd is how fast the KGB ex spy lost his hair. That would give a hint as to radiation wouldn't it? but wouldn't some of the tests they did on him to find out what he was dying from involve radio-active material, and wouldn't that hide the radiation in his body or was it the amount in his system that gave them their first clue? What if his assassins weren't told they could become contaminated as well and therefore the real murderer wouldn't have to worry about being found out about! Wow, the more questions I ask the more I seem to think of. You can be sure I'll be watching with bated breath for Monday night's AC360. Maybe there'll be further hints from London over the weekend.
Posted By Anonymous Bev Ontario Canada : 8:46 PM ET
I am interested to know if they couls have saved him by flushing it all out of his system as soon as he came ill?
Posted By Anonymous Tom Parker, Vancouver, CANADA : 8:55 PM ET
Q's for Dr. Gupta:
-Based on the symptoms, what is the best guess at the method of delivery: food, drink, aeosol, (cigarrette smoke) or injection?
-Based on the estimated amount of poison Litvinenko received, how long before he would've begun to feel ill? If it's a matter of an hour or so, this might narrow the list of suspects considerably.
-Any idea how Litvinenko's wife became exposed? She was not with her husband for any of those meetings that day.
Posted By Anonymous B. Brighams, Santa Monica, CA : 9:03 PM ET
I don't think its even necessary to find the assasin. Its Litvinenko's ideas that they were trying to kill. Unfortunately for Litvinenko's enemies the way they killed him has made Litvinenko and his ideas a household discussion of millions of people around the world. Change in Russia is what his killers were trying to put an end to, but ironically they have only accelerated it. The whole world has its eyes on Russia now.

It seems Litvinenko is going to get what he was striving for all along.
Posted By Anonymous Peter , Muskego, WI : 9:23 PM ET
I think they used polonium because by the time the victim gets sick, the murderer is far from the picture, and there's the added "treat" to whoever's behind it, of freaking anyone who was a sympathizer to the man killed. Let's face it, nukes scare us, and scare us good. We're talking about it, aren't we??
Posted By Anonymous Lauren, Wheeling WV : 10:06 PM ET
Hi David,
Your term "exotic murder weapon" speaks volumes. I'm no Einstein, but just the FACTS of this case would imply that whoever the assassin is that they wanted the world to be talking about this. A gun, knife, or poison is not an exotic murder weapon, therefore it's just my opinion, but I'd say the killer is getting his wish big time..The victim is dead, and the fear of this is causing terror. Maybe that's the motive. It goes to show all of us, just how massive the ripple effect of a dirty bomb could be too. It starts out small and spreads an invisible poison that would cause a panic shock wave, felt around the globe. I look forward to the program. Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 10:34 PM ET
Dear David,

This is quite an assignment you have given us!

First, any and all possible connections between Alexander Litvinenko, Mario Scaramella, Mikhail Trepashkin, and journalist Anna Politkovskaya should be thoroughly investigated.

Authorities should determine if the levels of polonium found on other victims and at other locations are unusual or within range of what is found naturally in the environment. Then, they should follow the trail of Litvinenko after they believe he was poisoned and compare it to where the authorities claim to have found unusual levels of polonium. Finally, they would have to compare the contaminated locations that Litvinenko did not visit with the itineraries of the other known people involved in this mystery.

1. The fact that this concentration of polonium is so rare, and, from what I understand, there is no cure for it, can only mean one thing: these people wanted to send a message to supporters of Litvinenko, to let them know that they have the power and the resources to elinminate anyone who gets in their way, and if you do, you will suffer for it. At this level it was 100 percent effective.

2 & 3. It will be interesting to find out how the doctors diagnosed the reason for Litvinenko's illness and subsequent death. If they accidentally discovered that polonium poisoning was the reason, then I would say that you are correct in assuming that the assassin did not think it would be screened for.

4. Make no mistake about it; whoever the assassin was, knew exactly what he or she was doing. It would take an expert to know how much or how little polonium to give to a victim to cause the desired result. I doubt there are any mistakes here. Mr. Litvinenko was the only victim given such a large amount of polonium.

I would like to know how long it would have taken Litvinenko to become ill after being exposed to that amount of polonium. I think it would be wise to thoroughly investigate the background of Italian security expert Mario Scaramella. The fact that Mr. Scaramella met Mr. Litvinenko at a mostly deserted self-serve restaurant and didn't eat anything is bothersome. Also, Scaramella's levels of polonium are minimal, just enough to suggest to authorities that he is also a victim.

Of course there is always the conspiracy theory that someone from inside Litvinenko's circle was responsible for his death in order to bring attention to their cause.

That's all I can come up with at the moment. Have a great weekend!

Jo Ann
Posted By Anonymous Jo Ann Matese, North Royalton, Ohio : 11:03 PM ET
How difficult is it to obtain Polonium? Is there a risk of terrorists obtaining Polonium, to use in a terror attack?
Posted By Anonymous Nalini Chervela, Sunnyvale, CA : 11:24 PM ET
If per chance say the Russian government is behind all this, is this biggest fear we should have and if it does lead to the government what will be the next step? Would the U.N. step in? To me, this is not a single threat to one person, this is a threat to all humanity.
Posted By Anonymous Em, Newtown Square, Pennsylvania : 11:36 PM ET
Wow! This is sure fascinating. What I'd like to know, though, is how this spy's death affects me and my state and my country. Has it interfered with the building of strong levies in NOLA - if not, then what is preventing those levies from being built? Is the poisoning of this Russian spy the cause of the ES&S machines in Florida not counting over 18,000 votes? If not, then what caused that - was it a computer error (if so, what sort of testing was done on those machines to verify their accuracy), or was it tampering by government officials or parties interested in a particular outcome? Could it be a combination of causes and what are the country-wide ramifications for the 2008 presidential election?

As intriguing and entertaining as stories like this (and like the OJ book) are, I find it quite disheartening that they are given blocks of your airtime while little or nothing is being said about stories that directly affect a huge number of people and will continue to affect those people for decades. I come to CNN and AC360 for real news - if I wanted entertainment, I'd tune into MTV, Comedy Central, FOX, or MSNBC.
Posted By Anonymous Calla, San Francisco, CA : 1:23 AM ET
I find it hard to believe such an isotope is just lying around in a cave somewhere.
Posted By Anonymous israel, raleigh, nc : 2:30 AM ET
Since 210-polonium is an alpha particle emitter, the poisoner would have had little, if any risk to themselves, unless they inhaled or ingested it. Alpha particles can't even penetrate paper, BUT, both alpha and beta particles release all of their energy into the cellular structures, and this greatly increases the damage done to cellular DNA and metabolic processes. From the traces found all over the place, I would say the material was stored in a vial until use, then the poisoner got it all over themselves. It might even be that the poisoner didn't even know what they were using, they just had to get the product delivered to the intended victim. As for the material used, lots of sites make it, but in the volume necessary to kill someone? Since polonium has no medical use, scrutiny would have to fall on research / scientific or government nuclear facilities, where it wouldn't be impossible to fire up the cyclotron and generate a batch unbeknownst to regulators. As this particular isotope of polonium (210) has a half life of 130 days or so, it could have been made nearly anywhere and transported, even stored for a time, until an opportunity came by. Of course, once the trail reaches Russia, the investigation will come to a screeching halt.
Posted By Anonymous Tom Jones, Medford Oregon : 2:42 AM ET
Wow. This looks like fascinating coverage of the medical and mystery sections. Makes me really wish that I could afford cable TV!

I'll be excited to read what I can...
Posted By Anonymous A.E. Washburn, Medford, MA : 5:12 AM ET
Until now a lot of us didn't know whot polonium is, so my question is whot form of polonium substance are there , is it a powder, liquid? If the person comes in contact with it how soon it can be detected ? How do we clean area that was exposed to ?
Posted By Anonymous Iwona Milwaukee,Wi. : 5:14 AM ET
Finnish news paper Helsingin Sanomat ( just published that officials grounded flght from Moscow to Helsinki because of high radiation. There were something like 100 passengers on board. Health officials are checking from where the radiation is coming from. All they just now can say is it is coming from something in passenger cabine.>Link to story. Sorry, only in Finnish

Posted By Anonymous Miika Oja : 7:52 AM ET
Diagnosing Mr Litvinenko's condition would have proved challenging if only because of its bizarre nature. However, sudden onset of such symptoms would probably soon have pointed towards a toxin. Hair loss on this scale might have suggested either a chemotoxin (an anti-cancer drug, for example)or radiation poisoning. Once suspected, scanning a urine sample for alpha, beta or gamma radiation would quickly have identified alpha rays as the culprit. (And having cells damaged by alpha 'rays' compared with beta 'rays' is like being run over by a London Bus compared with having a kitten jump on your lap!) Once alpha radiation was identified emanating from Mr Litvinenko's urine, then Mass Spectrometry (a technique which literally 'weighs' atoms)would rapidly have identified Polonium 210 as the culprit. Easy... at least with 20/20 hindsight! Dr Michael Hardy
Posted By Anonymous Dr Michael Hardy FRSC, Toronto, Ontario : 8:58 AM ET
To Calla in SF:

Wake up and smell the coffee girl. This could potentially affect EVERYONE. This could infect 100's of people.

There is a whole world out there and you need to be aware of what is going on in it.

Typical American. Self-absorbed.
Posted By Anonymous Em, Toronto, Ontario, Canada : 11:04 AM ET
David: What does the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have to say about Polonium 210 and how to acquire it? Perhaps there are nuclear plants in Russia or some type of black market to obtain this material? I thought that the IAEA also found that during the 1990�s, Iran experimented in the production of polonium saying it was intended to be used for electric generators. So, could it in fact be more easily obtained than we think? The assassin had to have some expertise to obtain it and the skills and knowledge to use it or at least have some powerful connections! Looking forward to Monday�s show.
Posted By Anonymous Jolene, St. Joseph, MI : 11:37 AM ET
Clearly whoever killed this Russian agent wanted the news to spread around the world. Killing with your average weapon ( gun, knife...) would have been far easier and cheaper. No, clearly they wanted this to trace back to Russia. As you know, elections are set for next year in Russia and I don't think the timing of this murder was just a coincident.
My question for Dr. Gupta is, if the physicians had made the diagnosis before he died could they have saved him?
Posted By Anonymous Gissou, Canada : 11:47 AM ET
Hi David~
How creepy this story is. The photo of Litvineko dieing gives me a sick feeling, literally. Maybe it is because I had to watch two people I love die this year and I am having a flashback. Possibly, I have a little PTSD! That's why God made wine.~ Anyway, I hope this murder is solved. Something about this is very frightening to me. Dark, dark energy. It is what nightmares are made of. I will be looking forward to the report on Monday, I think. Thanks for all your hard work over the week~end on this!~ Betty Ann

P.S. ~ I know you probably won't do it, but could you please take the photo of this poor dieing man off the blog before I become an alcoholic?
Posted By Anonymous Betty Ann, Nacogdoches TX : 4:00 PM ET
The element polonium does not necessarily have to be in a cave. Since it was in a rare form, more than likely it had been purified or manufactured in some way. I think that the killers wanted a weapon that would be difficult to detect. They also wanted to send a message of terror, so decided on polonium. I think it is important that we find out about this death, because it is a form of terror. If it is coming from the head of a government, this is particularly very dangerous.
Posted By Anonymous Thomas, Atlanta, Georgia : 4:04 PM ET
I think Monday's segment should be entitled "MURDER MOST FOUL." My analysis of the murder is that; it was a well organized plot by trained assassin/assassins whose masterminds wanted to send a powerful message to one and all. They also wanted him to die a very slow and painful death, by employing this rare murder weapon. This programme sounds like it will be similar to an Agatha Christie's masterpiece. I look forward to it.
Posted By Anonymous Liz Walters, Howell, NJ : 7:12 PM ET
The idea that a Russian spy was poisoned and that caused his death just gives me the creeps & sends shivers down my spine. I do have a question for Dr. Sanjay Gupta it is, What about the other people affected do they have a risk in dieing or will they get severely ill? Well, that's all for now I'll be watching on Monday to get the load down on the spy murder mystery...
Peace out 360 & God Bless,
Posted By Anonymous Joanna Parker, Millsboro: DE : 8:38 PM ET
As you are writing this story just keep in mind that there is a family who is grieving with unanswered questions and innocent bystanders who have been effected. A little sensitivity to others is in order here...even over a "great story".
Posted By Anonymous Sue, Huntington WV : 9:20 PM ET
Just for second, let's think of it this way:

Maybe Litvinenko killed himself?

On his deathbed, he blames the Russian government. Being a longtime critic of theirs, that's the first place people would look should something happen to him. Maybe he did this himself, to bring attention to the government?

The radioactive material was found at his home, places he ate and where he held meetings just before falling ill. People whom he was in contact with have tested positive for radiation, but not in a life-threatening way...he was a spy, and must have thought someone would have taken him out eventually...

I know it's a crazy, it at all possible? Or have I just seen too many movies?
Posted By Anonymous Stacey, Ottawa, Canada : 10:59 PM ET
For Dr. Gupta,
Are our medical facilities trained and ready for any case of polonium poisoning? Are they now on alert after this?
Would polonium affect children differently than adults? More devastating?
Any protection against it? Vaccines in the future?
Looking forward to the special.
Posted By Anonymous Maribel, Weston, Florida : 3:24 AM ET
Hey David,

What I want to know is how long does it stay in the air?If they can mesure levels on planes, it's in the air. How do you get contaminated? By contact only or by breathing what's in the air?

Honestly, everyone who comes in the hospital with any level of contamination should be treated AND questionned by authorities(maybe they are). Surely, the killer is somewhere in the pack. If he/she is not already dead.

As for "who's done it?" Either the person did not know what he was carrying or he did. Either way, to kill someone in such a manner, was sure to attrack the world attention(come on, we are in 2006, of course doctors and researchers are going to pick up on it!) and that's what they've done. The spy may be silenced, but his accusations are resounding all over the world. I'd say the killer(and the people who ordered the hit), have accomplished their goal. Put the focus on Putin. Either because he is guilty(wich I don't believe) or because it gives the real killers time to operate without having the spotlight on them.

I'm surprise, really, that we didn't see more attacks of that sort until now. Let's face it, the stuff is available(every kind) the knowledge is there, the evil, wrong intentionned are there also.

So, my question would be, if an attack on a wider level would happen, are our governments ready to react and limit the damages? How about our doctors & researchers?

OK, I think I've read one too many Tom Clancy's novels!! I'm going back to watching the snow fall lightly and calmly for a few minutes and forget about evil in the world. Better yet, I'm going to take a walk and enjoy the smell of freedom. I'm one of the lucky ones.I know it and am grateful for every second of it.

A good day to every one.

Joanne Ranzell
Laval Quebec
Posted By Anonymous Joanne Ranzell Laval Quebec : 2:22 PM ET
Dear David,

Of course they could have used some other method.
However, I believe that this was very calculated from people how are used to manipulate individuals as well as the public.
And here we are all, discussing Alexander Litvinenko's death, whodoneit, why, etc. But most of all concerned about our health. What happens to the people on the plane, on the restaurant? What happens to us who may have been in touch with these people?
The bigger issue is now public safety. Resources are focused in keeping all of us safe not finding out why Alexander Litvinenko was murdered. Not what it is, his death is protecting.
Who cares about some russian spy who we never heard of before now, when we start developing cancer?

At the end of the day, didn't he just get what he deserved? Better luck next time 007! And so the show goes on...
Posted By Anonymous Ruth Harris, London, England : 5:27 AM ET
I still don't understand why it was so hard to diagnose poisoning by a radioactive substance. Maybe I'm too much a child of the sixties (Duck! And cover!), but if I saw someone dying whose organs were shutting down and whose hair was falling out, I might leap to the conclusion that they had perhaps been exposed to something radioactive. Why was the radioactivity itself not detected, especially in a hospital, which presumably has the wherewithal to provide radiation therapy and might be supposed to have a geiger counter or two?

If heavy metal poisoning had been diagnosed immediately, could he potentially have been treated with chelation therapy?
Posted By Anonymous Arachnae, Sterling VA : 7:22 AM ET
i do not have to be a medical expert, nor a specialist on human behavior to know that the message was agony; definately, agony. i am an xray technologist.
Posted By Anonymous paul m, san francisco, ca : 9:45 AM ET
Its more of a Question. Can this poison be made and used as a pamdamic wepon? Explain answer.
Posted By Anonymous Mona Miller Branson,Mo. : 10:22 AM ET
I think the high dose of polonium 210 in this case was by accident! I am sure there are other ways of killing someone within a short time frame!

Alexander Litvinenko's friend got only 5 times the deadly dose and he did not get sick jet and if Litvinenko wouldn't have gotten that very high dosage, the dosage his friend got would have never been noticed and most likely he would have developed cancer, assumed to be of natural causes!

To me polonium 210 looks like an ideal poison that usally goes undetected and most likely has been used many times before.

Also the street value of the dose Litvinenko received was estimated to be
20 Million Dollars. Therefor I conclude, that the high dose Litvinenko got, was not intended.
Posted By Anonymous Fred Werner, Vancouver, BC Canada : 5:55 PM ET
I'm following this horrifying story since I saw Litvinenko on a hospital bad. Also, I started my own investigation on recent facts that happened prior to this brutal act. Series of ordered killings finished lifes of a journalist Yuri Shchekochikhin, a central banker Andrei Kozlov, a writer/journalist Anna Politkovskaya, and now Alexander Litvinenko. The only one thing they had in commom: critisizing present government in its corruption and criminal complicity. Alexander Litvinenko wrote an article "Why I believe Putin wanted me dead" talkind about his life experiences of being a part of the KGB (FSB) monster machine. He was investigating and analyzing organized criminal activities connected with a drug traffic in Russia and Europe, where "common money" of high rank FSB officers and Putin himself were involved. "My years of service at the FSB were rewarded by being fired and thrown in jail", Litvinenko wrote. And I believe him. I grew up in that country and left if the first time I had an opportunity. It just hurts so much to you realize that my ex-country doesn't have any future... especially with the barbaric regime like that.
Posted By Anonymous Tatiana Ivanova, Thousand Oaks, CA : 7:46 PM ET
I am interested in knowing why we have not heard the words of Litvinenko expressed at the independent journalist club Frontline. It was very moving to see him speak and announce publically he would be a witness to accuse Putin of the assasination of the journalist Anna Politkovakaya. It is available on the web but seemingly not viewed often according to Google. Please find out when this gathering of journalists took place. It is a testament to the freedom of speech, and a condemnation of the silencing of voices coming out of Russia.
Posted By Anonymous Barbara Benson, Middletown, NJ : 8:22 PM ET
I find it very odd that no one seems to see a corelation between Russia's agency acting to eliminate "undesirables", such as the spy that was poisoned, from the world under the guise of terroism even in other countries without their permission and the way the US has invaded the countries of Iraq and Afghanistan! We have broken the ideas of soverignty of another state many times to eliminate those our government does not want around and with the enemy combatant laws it can even be a US citizen on our soil or someone else's with no discrepency. Ironic how Putin and Bush seem to be on the same page when it comes to using the security issue for power gains and justification for breaking socially acceptable norms. If we could have poisoned Osama Bin Laden Bush would have authorized it.
Posted By Anonymous Nate Novgrod, Portland Oregon : 8:40 PM ET
Look people you all really need to take a chill pill. No pun intended. I really want to clarify some things because it is just getting out of hand here.
First of all Litvinenko was not some 007 from KGB with the keys to its many secrets. Before he joined KGB in the 90's he was a colonel at the MVD which is the interior ministry where he served in prison guard units. Second of all he joined the FSB (KGB) after it was reformed by Eltsin. Some of the key members of the KGB supported the hunta in 1991 putsch. The KGB was broken up in two organizations. The FSB and the SVR. The SVR has to do with foreign intelligence. Litvinenko joined the FSB, which at that point became more like police than anything. His unit concentrated on dealing with the organized crime. He is nothing like the super duper secret agent the media is trying to portray him. Here is another interesting fact which can be easily researched online by anyone who speaks fluent russian. Litvinenko and Berezovsky became 'friends' moved to London while still living in Russia long before the oligarch and the "007" moved to UK. In the late nineties Eltsin was ailing and was about to leave the office and so there was a very brutal political struggle in Russia between a Chubais clan, a Berezovsky clan and a Primakov-Luzhkov clan for it. Putin who was already heading the FSB was just an important pawn in the Chubais camp back then which clashed with Berezovsky & Co. And what does all of this have to do with Litvinenko? Well Berezovsky who held a high ranking position in the Russian govt back then wanted to create a security apparatus that would overshadow the FSB and the MVD or any other security apparatus and would serve his interests. Litvinenko was to head that organization. But in the end Berezovsky lost in that struggle with Chubais. Some of his clothest allies turned on him and he had to leave Russia. Some but not all of his assets were appropriated by figures loyal to the new clan taking the office. Putin very quickly moved up the ladder and soon became president. So you see he is not quite the human rights fighter everyone is trying to portray him as. He was just a pawn in the big game for power and his side lost. This assasination is more of a character assasination more than anything. A man like Putin would never put the credibility and the image he has built up over the last couple of years for a pawn like Litvinenko. And how? With a small nuclear bomb? Seriously now. There other more advanced poisons that can be used and can be as deadly and cuase the same agony if not worse out there. And bottom line is if the russians want someone dead they do it very simple with little dramatics - two bullets in the head with the last one being a controlled shot. It would make a lot more sense to take out the bigger fish -- Berezovsky. He is the old bitter man, the former gray cardinal of Kremlin, who is actively supporting anyone and everyone who would critisize Putin and his government. He was the one who hired the PR agency to spread the word and image of Litvinenko poisoning minutes after it became apparent. He is the one who stands to benefit from it all now that the image of the Russian govt and Putin personally is completely ruined in the eyes of people all around the world. Don't forget that the main suspect in the assassination - Mr. Lugovoi -- was not only a former FSB/KGB agent but also the head of Berezovsky's personal security service for many years...
Posted By Anonymous Pablo E, Bogota, Columbia : 12:46 AM ET
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